Many people assume train accidents are a thing of the past—seen only in history books or Hollywood Westerns. Or at least they did, perhaps, until seeing the harrowing video of one of Europe’s worst train disasters in northern Spain last month, which killed 79 people and injured 170 more.
And while it’s true the overall number of train-related injuries, fatalities, and collisions has steadily declined over the past couple decades, the reality is that railroad accidents still continue to be a very present danger for passengers, drivers, and railroad workers—even here in the U.S.
Take this, for example: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculated the death rate of vehicle/train collisions and compared it to vehicle/vehicle crashes. They found that a motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a collision involving a train than in a wreck with another vehicle.
Not only that, but there was a national total of 930 injuries and 271 fatalities from train incidents in 2012 alone. Last year in Tennessee, there were 166 reported train accidents, which resulted in 14 fatalities (nearly triple the national average)—mostly in and around Memphis and Chattanooga.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, an estimated 80% of railroad crossings are insufficiently marked, and a third of crossings have no warning device of any kind. These unmarked or poorly marked crossings are the reason behind 50% of today’s vehicle/train collisions.
Differences between FELA and Workers’ Compensation
Motorist/train collisions aren’t the only reason why railroads remain dangerous today, however. It is railroad workers who are routinely exposed to the most risk. In fact, back in the early 1900s, fatalities and injuries while working on trains were so commonplace that Congress passed legislation to compensate railroad workers or their families for work-related injuries or loss of life.
Sounds like workers’ compensation, doesn’t it? Not quite.
Today known as FELA (Federal Employment Liability Act), the railroad worker protection program granted by Congress over a century ago differs from standard workers’ compensation in two significant ways:
- In a FELA case, you must prove that your injury was caused by the railroad’s negligence, while in workers’ comp cases you receive compensation regardless of who or what is at fault.
- FELA damage awards are typically higher than worker’s compensation awards, because injured railroad workers face no limitations or caps on how much monetary damages they may receive, unlike workers’ comp.
Litigating railroad accident cases takes a distinct set of skills, and there are only a select few attorneys who have a thorough understanding of injury compensation under FELA. Gilreath & Associates is one such law firm, and we have extensive experience representing clients who were injured at a railroad crossing or from a train collision, and railroad workers who were hurt on the job.
Set up a free consultation with one of our Tennessee railroad accident attorneys today to discuss your case.